Purdue center Hammons undoes Michigan preparation

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

West Lafayette, Ind. — Michigan prepared for him. It hardly mattered.

Purdue’s 7-foot center, A.J. Hammons, had his way with the Wolverines in an 87-70 victory Thursday night at Mackey Arena.

He dunked, a lot. He blocked, a lot. Heck, he even stepped out and made a 3-pointer.

In short, he made life miserable for a Michigan team that, besides Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, had no answers for him.

“We had the old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sticks out all week, you know, hitting the ball. We did it all week with the broom — not broom handles, some guy’s making money off that thing,” coach John Beilein said. “And we were batting the hell out of it, and you can’t play against them like that. You can’t float them up.

“Then we got in the game and we just did it. He affects the game.”

On offense, Hammons had 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting.

On defense, the senior had four of Purdue’s seven blocks.

The Boilermakers limited the Wolverines to 18 points in the paint.

“We practiced it with a lot of pads and things like that, so we were prepared for the length. So it was nothing new,” said Abdur-Rahkman, the one Michigan player who solved the paint mystery, finishing with a career-high 25 points.

“They’re a great defensive team, so they’re always gonna try to force us out of our things, and I think we got forced out of it a little bit.

“And we’ve gotta work on that.”

Michigan shot just 37.7 percent for the game, 32.3 percent in the first half.

Hammons had help from another 7-footer, Isaac Haas, and especially Raphael Davis, who kept Duncan Robinson in line.

But Hammons, make no mistake, stole the show, as he so often does.

“He reminds me of the UConn teams, where you can run some cute stuff and get right to the rim, but somebody’s sending it back,” Beilein said. “It really deflates you. That’s why I think they’re so good, why I think they have a chance not to be good, but be great.”

Note of optimism

Michigan led for a good chunk of the first half, before Purdue went on a run.

Michigan cut it to six late in the second half, before Purdue went on a run.

Michigan was in this game, and if nothing else, that’s a good sign for a team that was practically run out of the gym in its other three losses, all to teams with a good supply of strong big men.

The Wolverines just could never get over that hump in the second half to make an upset threat.

“They picked up their intensity, I’d say, and we struggled to match that at times,” Robinson said. “Tough environment like this, that’s where we really have to band together and play hard.”

Slam dunks

Caris LeVert (lower left leg) was out for a second consecutive game. He participated in shoot-around, but still felt some pain. And Beilein said he won’t return until he can go through a practice and shoot-around completely pain-free.

... D.J. Wilson, not Ricky Doyle, was the first big man off the bench, which was different. Beilein said it’s simply because Wilson had a better week of practice.

“That’s the way it’s gonna be with the big guys,” Beilein said.

... Wilson and Mark Donnal combined to make three 3-pointers, and Beilein said he’s absolutely fine with them shooting from long range. Donnal was 2-for-2, Wilson 1-for-5.

“Those guys, they can make them in practice,” Beilein said. “Mark knocked down both of them. It was beautiful.”

... Michigan, which had been so much better sharing the ball in recent weeks, assisted on just 10 of 23 baskets, compared to 26 of 30 for Purdue.